Quirky projects funded by taxpayer dollars in every state
Benjamin Franklin said there are only two things certain in life: death and taxes. The latter helps to keep cities, states, and the country going—but that doesn't mean every dollar is going toward equal causes.
It's public knowledge that most taxation gets allocated for public transportation, schools, parks, defense, public works, and the like. But have you ever wondered where the rest of your tax money goes?
There are certainly some lesser-known, highly unusual, and even on occasion frivolous projects being funded every day by taxpayer money. Through Stacker's own independent research, the team found examples of tax dollars going toward everything from fancy bus stops and glow-in-the-dark billboards to teaching animals to run and potato chip PR—as well as interactive art and innovative outreach.
Check out this list to see an example of quirky projects being funded by your state—and then see what all the other states are up to.
Alabama: Right to privacy
The Department of Justice spent $500,000 to install powerful, high-quality surveillance cameras in Baldwin County courtrooms. The cameras were able to zoom in on computer screens and text messages, as well as overhear conversations between attorneys and their clients. Eventually, they were deemed too powerful to use because they violated people's constitutional rights to privacy.
Alaska: The airport to nowhere
Akutan, Alaska, spent more than $100 million on an airport and harbor that are essentially inaccessible and sit unused. The airport cost $75 million and the harbor $29 million. There are only five boats in the entire town—and the harbor has connecting roads to the town. As for the airport, there are no airlines running so it is also unused.
Arizona: Smartphone parking app
Arizona State University (ASU) was awarded almost $150,000 to develop a parking management system powered entirely by smartphone apps. There are other privately owned parking apps in the area, but the ASU campus was the pilot program for this app. The app measures people's driving data and gives them a better parking experience.
Arkansas: Unbuilt veteran housing
A $60,000 General Improvement Fund grant was awarded in 2013 to a West Memphis nonprofit that promised to use the money to build a three-quarter transitional home that would provide shelter for homeless veterans. Yet upon a 2017 progress review, no such structure had been implemented for the project by Creative Strategies Community Development Corp.—although the organization had bought a small home that it rents out.
California: Treadmill-running mountain lions
The scientists at the University of California–Santa Cruz were curious about mountain lions' ability to run on a treadmill. They spent $856,000 in federal grant money to see whether they could teach the wild animals to run on the machine. In fairness, the mountain lions did learn—so maybe it wasn't a total waste.
Colorado: Banning the tanning
The Department of Health and Human Services spent $676,147 to persuade mothers to persuade their daughters to stop using tanning beds as well as drum up support for a legal ban of the beds. The campaign was blasted across social media platforms including Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook.
Connecticut: A $10 million soccer stadium
The governor of Connecticut approved a budget of $10 million to construct a new soccer stadium in the city of Hartford. The state has approved other frivolous spending, but the soccer stadium is by far the most expensive.
Delaware: Vacant housing
Wilmington, Del., in 2017 was awarded more than $5 million to clean up and address abandoned and foreclosed properties across the city and state. The money is additionally being used to create new housing projects to help families and individuals in need of housing assistance.
Florida: Turtle safety
Turtles are a major part of the Florida landscape and are beloved by many Floridians. People love the reptiles so much, in fact, that Florida lawmakers approved a $3.4 million tunnel made especially for turtles so they can cross major highways safely.
Georgia: Virtual weight-loss program
Virtually Better Inc. in 2012 was awarded a $225,000 grant from the Department of Health and Human Services to develop a virtual weight loss system that worked not by getting people to actually lose the weight, but by helping them form habits that could lead to weight loss. The second phase of this project garnered an additional $1,264,285.2018 All rights reserved.